Goleta Green Room: Edible Food Waste and Greenhouse Gas

The City of Goleta’s Environmental Services division would like to share our current plans to help address short-lived climate pollutants (greenhouse gases), comply with new law, and provide tips on how you can help. In 2016 a law called SB1383 was passed as a measure to help reduce methane emissions. Methane gas is a greenhouse gas much more powerful than CO2. When organic waste is sent to the landfill, its degradation emits methane gas and California alone disposed of 27 million tons of organic waste in 2017. As climate change is becoming a prominent topic, organic waste is an area of focus. But what exactly is organic waste, and what can we do about it?

Organic waste, as defined by CalRecycle, is food waste, paper, and landscaping debris/cuttings. Food waste alone accounts for around 18 to 20% of the waste stream in California. That is about 6 million tons of food going to the trash or waste stream every year! Ironically, at the same time food is going to waste, 1 in 8 people and 1 in 5 children in California are food insecure. Is there a way we can recover edible food and help tackle two different problems at once?

At City of Goleta, there are several programs being developed aimed at reducing greenhouse gases. As part of SB1383, the Edible Food Recovery program aims to take edible food that would ordinarily be thrown away and redistributes it to those in need. SB1383 applies to the commercial sector, which means it is encouraging restaurants and businesses to find ways to recycle/donate the leftover edible food that would otherwise go to the landfill. Currently, the City of Goleta is performing an assessment to identify businesses that should participate, potential recipients, program partners, and logistics.

In addition to edible food recovery, the City of Goleta, the County of Santa Barbara, and other jurisdictions are taking action to address non-edible food waste. The Santa Barbara County ReSource Center is a state-of-the art facility currently under construction, which will not only help tackle food waste, but also increase the amount of materials recycled. The Anaerobic Digester at the ReSource Center is planned to begin operation in mid-2021.  Food waste will be deposited, turned into compost, and the methane gas it emits will be converted into energy. There are also food waste bins that can be distributed by the trash hauler in order for participants to better track and dispose of their organic waste.

You can help do your part, too! The County’s website has some great information: Read about tips to reduce the amount of food you and your family waste, and learn how to start a Home Composting program. Also, make sure you know the do’s and don’ts of yard waste and the green bin.  Let’s all do our part to tackle this complex issue together!